Field tests with The Panasonic G85

 

Anthony Alexander

A hands-on review of the Panasonic G85 16 megapixel Micro 4/3rds Mirrorless Camera

The Panasonic G85 is the successor to the G7 intro/advanced level mirrorless camera. So what is new about it? The G85 gains 5-axis in body combining with 2-axis in lens Dual I.S. 2 versus the G7’s lens-only Optical Image Stabilization. Panasonic is claiming this gives us a 5 stop boost in the ever present fight against user handshake which is never a welcome addition to beautiful stills and video.

The G85 also gets a new 2.36M dot OLED electronic viewfinder for increased magnification and quality. The G85 carries the same sensor as the G7, but with no anti-aliasing filter which can lead to a sharper image than its predecessor, provided the right conditions.

The G85 is also toughened up with weather and dust sealing Electromagnetic shutter and features a new in-camera focus-stacking mode. Also 9 fps AFS and 6 fps AFC with a 39 frame buffer shooting RAW+JPG or a 99+ JPG only, which is very formidable for a camera at this price point.

Video record time limit? Whats that? The G85 has left that behind totally on both AVCHD AND MP4 so you are free to keeping going and going as long as your battery life and SD card will allow it.

This camera has stellar low light capability going all the way to 25,600 ISO; however, quality is not very impressive past 3200 ISO. Still, if it comes to getting a rough shot or not getting the shot at all I will push it as high as I need to every time.

Weather and Dust, eh? Let the Games begin! So when someone claims their camera is now weather and dust sealed it must spark some sort of subconscious urge to push my limits with things. I did what any sensible person would do and went out and played with it in a cold rain for a little under an hour. Lo and behold it is still a camera. This little guy is going to be a fantastic companion for those of us who cannot be stopped by the weather reports. Not having to baby a camera has such a liberating effect on the photographer. It is so nice when we “well love” our gear and it loves us right back when it keeps coming back for more. Now keep in mind every product has its limits so do not drop or dunk it and make sure you keep the covers closed and locked when you are in the elements. That in mind though the weather sealing and the magnesium front on this camera give it a solid boost over most of its counterparts.

Battery Life:

Panasonic has always seemed to do batteries a bit better than most other manufacturers which is why you will see even some Canon DSLRs using Canon branded batteries made by none other than Panasonic. With the G85 Panasonic is also boasting a new economy mode to reduce battery usage especially when our camera is not in use. But still lets see if this thing has the Mirrorless battery-killer effect that this breed of camera are so infamous for.

Test 1: How many continuous shots we can pull off while we have a charge? 766 shots later I find I have only used one bar of power (1/3rd the battery.) And a while later I gave up after I overran my 32 gb sd card. So this camera is no joke when it comes to rapid shooting with no flash and power usage .

Test 2: How long will this Economy mode get me without turning the camera off?
Result was a total of 1 day and exactly 623 pictures (no flash).

Test 3: How much flash can I run continuously? After a brutal run of continuous shots of full intensity flash, only pausing to let the capacitor recharge, I had 521 shots in with 2/3rds of a charge left.

Test4: How much video can one battery pump out? I got a combined total of 113 minutes of video off a full charge.

Battery summary: This thing is shockingly efficient and more than equipped for a full day’s use.

G85 vs G7

When I first got the G85 I was thinking it had a big bill to fit if it was to prove itself a notable successor to the Panasonic G7. The G7 was a real game changer for the informed consumers. It was such a brilliant combination of excellent still photography and video that not just spoke but sang to the beginner all the way up to the complete control freak like me.

What did it inherit?

The Panasonic G85 is working with the same digital sensor and venus engine processor as it’s predecessor the G7. It is nearly identical in form and feel. Touch screen and one of the best Wifi features on the market are also included when you get one of these cameras. The G7 also gave the G85 its 4k video/Photo feature which not only allows us to record videos with dazzling resolution but it also allows us to take single frames from that video and make large still prints from them since a single frame of 4k video is the equivalent of an 8 mega pixel jpeg still image. That’s right, we are now shooting at 30 frames per second.

What did it gain?

The Panasonic G1 was the first mirrorless digital camera on the market mind you so Panasonic has quite a bit of invested in keeping its name as “First in Mirrorless.” So after sitting back and letting Sony and Olympus run the market in 2014 and the very early part of 2015 Panasonic came out with the G7 (a game changer.) But there were these pesky little things that they’re competitors could still tout over them like Weather proof bodies and in-camera 5 axis image stabilization. Well, Panasonic humored them for a moment but only long enough to out do them completely when they combined a new 5 axis in body stabilizer with the already tried and true in-lens stabilizer. So now I have the best of all worlds. The G85 also gains a better OLED viewfinder with better magnification than its predecessor. And let’s not forget the ultra subtle electromagnetic shutter mechanism and magnesium front to toughen this model up.

Panasonic is even more aggressive than ever and will not settle for less if another manufacturer is doing something better.

Shooting with the G85:

Knowing it was a refined version of the G7, I expected much out of the G85 since I adore the shots I got from its predecessor. To start, I took the G85 out to the park with my girlfriend for a fair weather photo walk. I found it to be a very good companion and very easy to tote around weighing only 715g / 1.58 lb (SD card, Battery, H-FS12060 lens included.) The image quality was everything I would expect from it for landscape shooting. I did not see anything notable about it vs the G7, so I moved on to other things. I took it out to playgrounds with my daughter and to the zoo. Still couldn’t say I saw any sort of difference between the two. However that was about the time that I remember that I was following the rules of technical shooting to a T as I usually do without thought. This is not what you do when you are testing a new camera. So I waited till after work one night to take it out for some street shooting in downtown Carmel near my work. It was dark out and I only had street lights to help out. With my ISO set at 1600 I went about shooting but this time I made sure to break the rules. I would only hand hold the camera and I would keep my shutter speed no faster than 1/5th of a second and really run that new image stabilization thru the numbers. This time I was truly wowed by what I saw. With only a few exceptions my clicks turned out very sharp only blurring the motion of passing cars to gain the fun effects I would normally only get if I had a tripod. So take that hand shake! I also noticed a very large difference when I tried out some telephoto glass on the G85. Though normal laws of space and time had not changed, the rules for slowest shutter speeds to hand hold your camera with have been broken forever. The only place I can say this camera falls a little short is the image really comes apartĀ a bit faster than some of the larger sensor cameras out there is if you go beyond 3200 ISO, but considering the fact this allows for a much smaller camera and lens combination. Given the fantastic performance for a camera in this price range I make no apologies for this one hitch.

Fun at the park

Fun at the park

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Video:

Panasonic tends to be a very heavy hitter when it comes to the video market. The only time you are going to find someone passing them up is when there is a need to drop a few grand and go for a full frame sensor for better shooting in very dark situations where adding light is not an option. But the micro 4/3rds sensor is a very common cinematic standard and these guys are capable of breathtaking quality. The Panasonic G85 is a very capable video camera as one would expect considering its pedigree but where it truly stands apart from the rest is it is a 4K capable camera that you can take on a walk. The 5 axis dual OIS 2 works magic when moving and hand holding this camera while recording. The cameras will never be able to eliminate our motion entirely (or will they?…) but instead of sharp up down and side to side motion the new Dual OIS2 softens the visibility of these distracting motions. So if our motion while holding the camera could be described as a jagged mountain range this new system downgrades us to wavy hills without sharp peaks or deep valleys. I will critique the G85 on one thing though. Panasonic for some reason (possibly to accommodate the weather seal) decided to move the mic input and HDMI in lower which works fine but will hinder the motion of your touch screen if you swivel it a certain way. Pros v Cons though easily make up for this.

 

Build Quality:

I am pleased with how this camera was crafted. It is almost identical to the G7 which has a very solid design with great ergonomics and solid controls which are easy to switch on the fly once you learn where things are. The G85 takes a big boost in street cred with the addition of weather sealing and a magnesium front. I do have to dock it on 2 things however. The first which I mentioned above is the placement of the mic input and HDMI jacks. Honestly I really like the addition of a dedicated memory card slot, but I would almost rather have kept it like the G7 if that would clear room to move the plastic covers for the MIC and HDMI jacks out of the way of the tilt swivel screen. I realize that they did this to also accommodate a battery grip, but the battery does so well that I am not sure I would trade one for the other. But that is my opinion. Also I am not a fan of how far forward they chose to move the tripod mount thread. My tripod plate is so far forward on it that it is nearly running into my lens. That being said the only thing I have found it actually does obstruct is my metabones adapter and that piece can be removed anyway. As a whole, this camera is a dream to work with and even though there are smaller and definitely cuter mirrorless cameras out there (it takes after the classic DSLR look which only a mother could love) its controls were really well laid out and allow the camera to be adjusted on the fly without having to dig into menus to get to the most important adjustments. I also love that this camera has a grip on it that you can get your hands around.

To Sum it all up:

The Panasonic G85 has been at my side through an entire week and I have loved its company. I have bigger and more expensive kits but this is easily what I would rather have on me daily. Even though it is more of a refinement than a true successor to the Panasonic G7, I can say with all confidence it is a bit more my speed than its predecessor with both build and capability. And if video or street photography is the emphasis, it is a no-brainer for its ability to keep up with you while you are out. And though it is not a fashion statement in itself, what it lacks in looks it more than makes up for in function. I know where my money is going.

 

 

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