I’ve been using the new 20MP Lumix GX8 since September. I’ve used it for outdoor action shots, and in the studio for product photography. I’ve shot using the 4K photo and video modes. This article will highlight some of the GX8 features, and compare it with the Lumix GH3 and a Lumix GM1 – my current cameras.
First Impressions and Handling of the GX8
The GX8 is a meaty camera with a retro look to it, especially the silver model. It feels great in your hands and there is a lot of real estate to hold onto.
All the important camera controls are accessible from the top dials and back buttons. And they are all grouped on the right side of the camera. The dials are big and toothy, giving a very positive and in-control feel to the camera.
I really like the exposure compensation dial on the top – both the positioning of it, and the ease of use. Since I shoot mostly in Shutter Priority mode, it’s easy to add or remove light when needed, and I can quickly glance at my current +/- setting without having to look at the LCD.
If you are shooting in manual mode, you’ll like that there is a separate dial for aperture and shutter. In the Program, Aperture, and Shutter modes, both dials work the same, so you can use either one for making adjustments.
The buttons on the back are easy to access and change. The ones I use most are readily available, like ISO, WB, focus mode, and the drive mode.
I have fallen in love with the articulating OLED Live View Finder! Pressing your eye into this viewfinder makes shooting sports a better experience than using the back LED screen, especially in bright sun. I also love that I can lay down on the ground and shoot from a low angle and see my subject clearly. And in the studio it is handy for shooting at waist level from a tripod.
The GX8 is a very fast focussing camera. I’ve used it in sports shooting with AFS (one-shot) as well as AFF and AFC modes. While looking through the viewfinder, you can touch the LCD screen with your thumb to pre-select the area of the frame you want to be in focus. Action shooters will love this feature, as it allows you to pre-compose your shot and then wait for the action to be where you want in the frame.
How does the GX8 compare to the GH3 and GM1?
The Lumix GH3 was my first M4:3 mirrorless camera. I have used it extensively over the past 3 years for everything from events, studio, hybrid, video and sports photography. It’s my workhorse camera. I have the 12-35mm f2.8, and the 35-100mm f2.8 lenses. It is a pro-level camera.
The GH3 has a smoother, rounder feel to it than the GX8. The menus and dials are split between the right and the left sides. Common menu items are easily accessible, but in different spots on the body.
You can tell the GH3 is designed for pro use because the memory card is accessible from a side door, which is handy when using a tripod. This is something I missed having on the GX8 when using it in the studio. On the other hand, you can tether the GX8 or use wifi to transfer files.
One of my favourite features of my GH3 is the ability to change the video frame rate “in” the camera. This is perfect for changing the mood of your video clips. If I want to add emotion and slow things down, I’ll shoot at 80% of the speed. This also works well with wind blowing on people’s hair. If I want to add humour, I’ll bump it up to 200 or 300%. Of course you can also change these settings during video editing, but when creating hybrid videos, it’s nice to keep the editing down to a minimum.
New 4K Video and 4K Photo features
4K Video is now a standard feature of most new cameras, and the GX8 is no exception. 4K video is captured in MP4 format only.
Lumix 4K Photo mode allows you to shoot 8MP still photos at 30 fps. This is great for grabbing a frame out of an action sequence. (Look for my upcoming videos about the 4K Photo modes of the GX8.)
When using any of the 4K modes the image area gets cropped to 80% which means your magnification factor is 1.25. The 12-35 mm lens acts like a 15-44 mm lens, which in our 35mm film terms is 30-88 mm. This can be a small disadvantage for wide angle shots, but when you can’t get as close as you want, it’s a bonus.
For audio, the GX8 uses the smaller 2.5mm audio input port, whereas the GH3 uses the standard 3.5mm audio input jack. If you’re planning to use the GX8 for audio capture with a standard 3.5mm external mic then you’ll need to get an adapter. As for monitoring your audio levels, the GH3 has a headphone jack but the GX8 doesn’t. You will need to check the mic levels display on the GX8 when recording. You can also use wifi to get a test file to your phone or tablet to check the levels with headphones.
But for capturing video for your hybrid projects, don’t even worry about the audio. I use a music track for my hybrid videos. To learn more about hybrid photography, go to this page: http://www.imagemaven.com/hybrid-imaging/
The Lumix GM1 is my easy and fun camera. I carry this camera with me everywhere and 90% of the time, I use it on iA mode – that’s fully automatic everything. The GM1 has the same size sensor as the GH3 and GX8, so the image quality is excellent and only limited by the lens. I use the 12-32 mm kit lens that came with this camera, and I’m blown away by how sharp it is. It’s not a fast lens, so it’s limited in low light, but I’m not afraid to raise the ISO if needed.
I use the GM1 in situations where most would use their cell phone cameras. And when I need more control, I use the other shooting modes, so I can change my ISO, WB, f-stop and shutter speed.
Because of it’s simple styling, there is a lack of external controls on the GM1. Some of the settings I access often, like ISO, Photo Style, size, and aspect ratio, are buried in menus, so I prefer to use the Quick Menu to change them. The Quick Menu is common to all my Lumix cameras. Very handy.
At 4” across, the GM1 is very small. It might not suit someone with large hands, but it’s perfect for mine. In bright sun the GM1 is harder to compose your shots with, because it has no eyepiece viewfinder. (The GM5 solved this problem, with the addition of the eyepiece.)
I got the orange GM1. It’s cute, and you can wear it like at piece of jewelry around your neck, and easily take it on your daily walks. And at a party you can hold a drink and some food without having to put the camera away. Plus, it’s a great conversation starter. I’m very happy with this camera and I would use it over an iPhone any day.
People argue that they can get apps to fine tune their mobile phone cameras, but in my experience, they are slow to use, and I’d much rather have a real camera that can capture excellent photos, quickly and without mucking around with apps.
20 MP Image Size
The GX8 comes with Lumix’s new 20 MP sensor, up from 16 MP in previous G series cameras. This sensor is the same physical size as my other two cameras (17.3 mm x 13 mm) but with more pixel density. The extra file size is a benefit if you’re making super large prints.
To be honest, I shoot most of my photos at the medium file size, (especially for hybrid work) unless I’m planning to print it huge or crop it a lot. Coincidentally, that matches the 4K video size of 3840 x 2160 pixels, when using the 16:9 image area ratio. I’ve also pulled 4 foot wide wall prints from 8MP files from my GH3 and GM1, so file size isn’t really a concern for me. As long as the image quality is there to start with, I don’t have any problems with printing.
Final thoughts on the GX8
If you like to shoot action, this is the camera for you. The fast focussing is a huge benefit. The meaty size makes it comfortable to hold, giving a really solid and positive feel when shooting. If you’ve moved recently from a dSLR, this camera will feel great in your hands.
The OLED viewfinder on the GX8 is so sharp that I find it difficult to go back to the GH3 viewfinder. I keep thinking, I need to clean my glasses.
Journalists, wedding photographers and street shooters will like the GX8. You can shoot in silent mode and be less conspicuous. And a journalist who is in the middle of the action will benefit from the fast focus. Beginners shooting sports will love the 4K photo modes. You won’t miss a shot.
It does have a high price point, and if you don’t already own any M4:3 lenses, you will have to factor that into your budget as well.
The GX8 is a fine addition to my toolbox, especially for when I’m getting down on the ground and close to the action. If that is your passion, then check out the Lumix GX8 at your local retailer. Sometimes it’s just how a camera feels in your hands, that makes all the difference, and this one feels right for me.