- Small and easy to use
- Capable of 4K Video and 4K Photo
- Cheapest Panasonic CSC around
- No eye viewfinder
- 16MP Four Thirds sensor with no optical low-pass filter
- 4K Video and 4K Photo
- 12-32mm kit lens
- Flip-up 1,040k-dot LCD
- Manufacturer: Panasonic
- Review Price: £499.99/$749.99
WHAT IS THE PANASONIC GX800?
Panasonic has taken the decision to simplify its line-up, ditching the GF and GM strands (in the UK at least). The GX800 is now the entry-level camera in Panasonic’s arsenal. You can move up the GX line to the GX80 or GX8, if you feel that the GX800 is too basic for you, and likewise you can start with the GX800 if you want something a little more straightforward than its siblings. All clear?
The GX800 features a 16MP Four Thirds sensor, which, as with some of the other Panasonic cameras of late, comes without an optical low-pass filter for increased detail resolution. It’s also got a flip-up LCD screen, but crucially no eye viewfinder (or possibility to attach one). Like all other current Panasonic cameras it features 4K Video and 4K Photo modes.
PANASONIC GX800 – DESIGN AND HANDLING
The smallest CSC currently offered by Panasonic, the GX800 is perhaps closer aligned in size to some of the premium compact cameras currently on the market – especially if you’re using it primarily with the retractable 12-32mm kit lens. There will be four different coloured versions of the camera available to buy, but some will be exclusive to certain retailers.
With the lens fully retracted, the camera is small enough to fit in a reasonably large pocket, such as a jacket pocket.
It’s clear from the design and layout of the camera that Panasonic is aiming this at a beginner audience. As such, there’s not an overwhelming array of controls to choose from, which is good news for keeping it simple. The majority of the buttons are grouped on the right-hand side of the camera, meaning you can quickly access everything with your right thumb or forefinger if you’re shooting one-handed.
The top of the camera holds a mode dial for switching between different exposure modes. There’s a range of automatic options here, but anybody who’s a bit more experienced should be pleased to see semi-automatic and manual options also available – this could be a great camera for experimenting and learning with.
There are two special buttons on the top of the camera which take you to two of the most appealing functions of the GX800. There’s a button for accessing the 4K Photo modes. In short, this allows you to extract stills from 4K video, which records at 30fps. That means that for every second something is happening, you will have 30 different shots to choose from – ideal for catching the precise moment or expression for fast-moving subjects, such as pets and kids.
On the other side of the top plate is the Post Focus button. This allows you to take a photo and then change the focus point afterwards in playback. It’s a nifty feature that’s particularly useful for macro and so on, but perhaps not something you’ll use quite as regularly as the 4K Photo modes.
On the back of the camera there’s a small selection of different buttons. A scrolling dial surrounds the four-way navigational pad and can be used to make adjustments to various settings depending on how you’re using the camera. The good news is that many of the buttons can be customised to your preferred way of shooting. A quick menu, accessed via its own button, can also also be customised to add or remove functions as you see fit.
Behind the battery door you’ll find not only the battery, but the memory card slot. That gets special mention because the camera accepts microSD cards, rather than full-sized SD. Annoying for anyone who already has a stack of SD cards lying around, but it’s good news for anybody who’s been using microSDs with their mobile phones.
PANASONIC GX800 – SCREEN
Unlike the other cameras in the GX line-up, the GX800 is not equipped with an eye viewfinder, electronic or otherwise. That’s a shame for anyone who likes to compose using one, but it’s perhaps not surprising to see it omitted from an entry-level model. It’s not possible to add one via a hot shoe or accessories port either, as, well, there isn’t one. If you’re inclined to like eye viewfinders, you’d do well to take a look at the GX80, which sits just above the GX800, but doesn’t currently cost too much more to buy.
The screen is touch-sensitive, and tilts to allow you to face it forward for selfies and the like. The flip goes to the top of the camera, meaning that you’re OK to place the camera on a table or a tripod and take your selfies – particularly useful for group shots.
Via the screen you can also carry out a number of tasks. You can set the autofocus point, you can move through images in playback and you can select things from either the full menu or the quick menu. The screen is nice and responsive, and anybody who’s moving up from a mobile phone should find it a particularly familiar way to work.
PANASONIC GX800 – PERFORMANCE AND AF
If you already have the kit lens extended – or if you’re using another lens altogether – the camera’s start-up time is very quick. The 12-32mm collapsible lens needs to be extended manually; it doesn’t pop out automatically. If you’re likely to be shooting a sequence of photographs in relatively quick succession, it’s worth leaving the lens extended, only packing it away at the end of the day again.
In most scenarios, autofocus is quick and accurate. If the light is very low, the 12-32mm lens can struggle to lock on. You can help it out by ensuring that the focus assist lamp is set to “on” in the main menu, but you may want to switch it off in certain places where it might not be welcome.
The GX800 can continuously focus, and it fares reasonably well if you’re tracking a moving subject that’s following a predictable pattern – it’d be fair to say that the GX800 is not the ideal camera for sports and wildlife photographers, though.
PANASONIC GX800 – IMAGE QUALITY
It’s not surprising to find that the GX800 delivers excellent image quality, with Panasonic having done so well with previous GX (and GF) series cameras in the past. Colours are warm and vibrant, without going so far as to be over the top.
Detail is well resolved, with special thanks to the filterless sensor which works well to produce richly detailed images. You can see a good level of detail when examining at 100% at the lower end of the sensitivity scale. Moving up to ISO 3,200, if you examine closely you’ll see that there’s smudginess in certain areas of the shot, but the overall impression is still great – especially if you’re sharing at normal web sizes, or printing at A4 or below.
The higher sensitivities aren’t ideal, unless you’re particularly desperate to get the shot. ISO 12,800 is usable at very small sizes, while ISO 25,600 you’d be best to avoid altogether. Still, it’s rare that you’ll need to venture into those territories for the majority of your shots.
Exposures are well balanced with the all-purpose metering setting selected, while white balance in the automatic setting is also close to being accurate in the majority of situations – erring ever so slightly towards warmer tones when faced with some kinds of artificial lighting (but still with a pleasing look overall).
While the 12-32mm lens doesn’t offer particularly wide apertures – f/3.5 at the widest point – it’s a nice little lens to get you started with a camera like this. The option to buy further lenses as you progress more with your photography is great, with the pancake prime lenses that Panasonic offers being the obvious choice for a small camera such as this.
PANASONIC GX800 – VIDEO
One of the marketing points of this camera is that it’s the cheapest 4K compact system camera on the market. The fact that 4K is becoming so commonplace means that every day consumers can have access to the Ultra HD video format in an increasingly easy manner.
Footage recorded in 4K is smooth and easily captured, and while this isn’t exactly a camera that dedicated videographers will be looking to buy, futureproofing your videos is no bad thing – even if they mainly consist of movies of the dog and the kids. If you want to save memory card (and hard drive) space, you can also record in 1080p Full HD, which yields some nice results.
SHOULD YOU BUY THE PANASONIC GX800?
This is a great option if you’re looking to move up from the limitations of your smartphone, or perhaps a basic compact camera, but without the complication of one of the larger CSCs currently on the market.
With enough functions to appeal to those looking for more advanced photography, the GX800 doesn’t forget that it’s intended for beginner users and also keeps it as simple as you need it to be.
It’s currently the cheapest CSC that Panasonic produces. That’s not to say that you can’t find cheaper models – older Panasonic GF cameras for a start – but for something which contains all the latest technology, including 4K, it represents decent value for money.
If you’re a little more advanced, you may want to consider the GX80, which is available for only a little more and gives you extra features, such as the electronic eye viewfinder.
A cute little CSC which has a good range of features in an almost pocket-friendly package. It’s easy to use, takes great snaps and there’s room to grow with it if you find yourself wanting even more.