Panasonic Lumix DMC-G85/G80 Review

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Key Features
  • 16MP Four Thirds MOS sensor w/o optical low pass filter
  • 5-axis image stabilization with Dual I.S. 2
  • Splash/dust-proof body
  • Depth from Defocus AF
  • 2.36M-dot OLED EVF
  • 3-inch 1.04M-dot fully-articulating touchscreen LCD
  • 4K video / photo
  • Focus stacking and post focus

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-G85 is an SLR-style mid-range mirrorless camera. It features 4K video capture, 2nd-generation 5-axis image stabilization and a 16MP Four Thirds sensor with no optical low pass filter. A sister model, the G80 will be available in other markets.

Though Panasonic has not come outright and said it, the G85 is the successor to the G7. More a refinement than something new entirely, both cameras share seemingly identical bodies and offer twin control dials, plenty of customizable buttons and fully articulating touch interfaces.

But the G85 is rather more grand: it’s weather-sealed with a magnesium alloy front plate, and offers a new electromagnetic shutter to combat shutter shock, an upgraded electronic viewfinder and 5-axis in-camera IS.

Like the Panasonic GX85, the G85 uses a 16MP chip with no anti-aliasing filter. We found image quality from the GX85 to be slightly improved over that of past Panasonic cameras using the same 16MP chip with AA filters (like the G7).

The G85 also uses the same redesigned shutter mechanism as the GX85, which we found to effectively mitigate shutter shock, an issue that affected the Panasonic G7.

Compared to its peers

Panasonic G85 Panasonic G7 Panasonic GX85 Sony a6300 Olympus EM-5 II
MSRP $900 (body) $800 (with kit lens) $800 (with kit lens) $1000 (body) $1100 (body)
Sensor (resolution/size) 16MP Four Thirds 16MP Four Thirds 16MP Four Thirds 24MP APS-C 16MP Four Thirds
AA filter No Yes No Yes No
Stabilization Sensor-shift (5-axis) + Dual IS 2 In-lens only
Sensor-shift (5-axis) + Dual I.S.
In-lens only Sensor-shift (5-axis)
EVF res/mag. 2.36M-dot OLED (0.74x) 2.36M-dot OLED (0.7x) 2.76M-dot field sequential LCD (0.7x) 2.36M-dot OLED (0.7x) 2.36M-dot LCD (0.74x)
Autofocus Contrast Detect w/ 49-points + DFD Contrast Detect w/ 49-points + DFD Contrast Detect w/ 49-points + DFD Hybrid AF w/425 PDAF points Contrast Detect w/ 81-points
Burst w/ continuous AF 6 fps 6 fps 6 fps 11 fps 5 fps
LCD size, type 3-inch 1.04M-dot articulating 3-inch 1.04M-dot articulating 3-inch 1.04M-dot tilting 3-inch
921k-dot tilting
3-inch 1.04M-dot articulating
Touchscreen Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Mic/Headphone port Yes/No Yes/No No/No Yes/No Yes/No
Max movie resolution 4K/30p 4K/30p 4K/30p 4K/30p 1080/60p
Weather-sealing Yes No No Yes Yes
Flash sync speed 1/160 sec 1/160 sec 1/160 sec 1/160 sec 1/250 sec
Battery life 320 shots 350 shots 290 shots 400 shots 310 shots
Weight 453 g 410 g 426 g 404 g 469 g
Dimensions 128 x 89 x 74 mm 125 x 86 x 77mm 122 x 71 x 44 mm 120 x 67 x 49 mm 124 x 85 x 45mm

While the three Panasonic cameras compared above share quite a lot, the G85 stands out against the other 16MP Panasonic’s as the most appealing choice. This is due to its inclusion of weather-sealing, an updated Dual IS system and upgraded electronic viewfinder.

When compared to similar mirrorless offerings from Sony and Olympus, things get a bit more complicated. The Sony beats it in terms of its more sophisticated AF system, larger sensor and faster burst (w/ AF), but the G85 offers superior ergonomics (fully articulating touchscreen, dual top-plate control dials, higher magnification EVF). The G85 and EM-5 II also share quite a lot, the major distinction between the two being the G85’s 4K video capability (compared to 1080p on the Olympus).

The whole Panasonic gang, including the Panasonic G85, GX85, G7 and 20MP GX8.

Pricing and availability

The Panasonic G85 will be available in the US for $899 body only and $999 with 12-60mm F3.5-5.6 Power O.I.S. kit lens.

Accessories

The optional DMW-BGG1 vertical battery grip adds an additional shutter release and improved ergonomics, as well as room for a second battery, effectively doubling shooting time.

Specifications

Price
MSRP $899 (body only), $999 (w/12-60 lens)
Body type
Body type SLR-style mirrorless
Body material Magnesium alloy
Sensor
Max resolution 4592 x 3448
Image ratio w:h 1:1, 4:3, 3:2, 16:9
Effective pixels 16 megapixels
Sensor photo detectors 17 megapixels
Sensor size Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm)
Sensor type CMOS
Color space Primary color space
Color filter array Primary color filter
Image
ISO Auto, 200-25600 (expands down to ISO 100)
Boosted ISO (minimum) 100
White balance presets 5
Custom white balance Yes (4 slots)
Image stabilization Sensor-shift
Image stabilization notes IS system works together with stabilized lenses to improve shake reduction
Uncompressed format RAW
JPEG quality levels Fine, normal
File format
  • JPEG (Exif 2.3)
  • Raw (Panasonic RW2)
Optics & Focus
Autofocus
  • Contrast Detect (sensor)
  • Multi-area
  • Center
  • Selective single-point
  • Tracking
  • Single
  • Continuous
  • Touch
  • Face Detection
  • Live View
Autofocus assist lamp Yes
Number of focus points 49
Lens mount Micro Four Thirds
Focal length multiplier 2×
Screen / viewfinder
Articulated LCD Tilting
Screen size 3
Screen dots 1,040,000
Touch screen Yes
Screen type TFT LCD
Live view Yes
Viewfinder type Electronic
Viewfinder coverage 100%
Viewfinder magnification 0.74×
Viewfinder resolution 2,360,000
Photography features
Minimum shutter speed 60 sec
Maximum shutter speed 1/4000 sec
Maximum shutter speed (electronic) 1/16000 sec
Exposure modes
  • Program
  • Shutter Priority
  • Aperture Priority
  • Manual
Built-in flash Yes
Flash range 6.20 m (at ISO 100)
External flash Yes (via hot shoe)
Flash modes Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced On/Red-eye Reduction, Slow Sync., Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction, Forced Off
Flash X sync speed 1/160 sec
Continuous drive 9.0 fps
Self-timer Yes (2 or 10 secs, 10 secs x 3 shots)
Metering modes
  • Multi
  • Center-weighted
  • Spot
Exposure compensation ±5 (at 1/3 EV steps)
AE Bracketing ±3 (3, 5, 7 frames at 1/3 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV steps)
WB Bracketing Yes
Videography features
Format MPEG-4, AVCHD
Modes
  • 3840 x 2160 @ 30p / 100 Mbps, MP4, H.264, AAC
  • 3840 x 2160 @ 24p / 100 Mbps, MP4, H.264, AAC
  • 1920 x 1080 @ 60p / 28 Mbps, MP4, H.264, AAC
  • 1920 x 1080 @ 60i / 17 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Dolby Digital
  • 1920 x 1080 @ 30p / 24 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Dolby Digital
  • 1920 x 1080 @ 30p / 20 Mbps, MP4, H.264, AAC
  • 1920 x 1080 @ 24p / 24 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Dolby Digital
Microphone Stereo
Speaker Mono
Storage
Storage types SD/SDHC/SDXC card
Connectivity
USB USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)
HDMI Yes (micro-HDMI)
Microphone port Yes
Headphone port No
Wireless Built-In
Wireless notes 802.11b/g/n
Remote control Yes (via wired remote or smartphone)
Physical
Environmentally sealed Yes
Battery Battery Pack
Battery description Lithium-ion battery & charger; optional grip
Battery Life (CIPA) 330
Weight (inc. batteries) 505 g (1.11 lb / 17.81 oz)
Dimensions 128 x 89 x 74 mm (5.04 x 3.5 x 2.91)
Other features
Orientation sensor Yes
GPS None

Body & Controls

The G85 is a DSLR-style mirrorless camera that offers a good balance of physical control points, customizable buttons and touch capability.

In Hand

With the kit lens (or similar-sized/weighted lenses) attached, the G85 can be held and operated comfortably using just one hand. Both front and rear control dial are easily accessible, as are the Fn1 and Fn2/Q.Menu buttons, without jeopardizing one’s grip on the camera.

The control dials and shutter button on the G85 have a reassuring stiffness to them, especially when compared to those of its predecessor, the Panasonic G7. This difference is likely a result of the G85’s weather/dust-sealing.

The body of the camera is wrapped in the same rubber-like material as its predecessor. It is adequately ‘grippy.’ From an ergonomic standpoint, the G85 (and G7) are both easier to operate than the rangefinder-style GX85, which shares many of the same internal components but is wrapped in a faux-leather, which we found much slicker; the GX85 also has a much smaller grip.

Overall, the G85 is a very easy camera to operate, its dials are large and the touchscreen interface should feel intuitive to anyone remotely familiar with touch-sensitive smart devices. However, the back buttons are on the small side. And the camera can be difficult to operate in the vertical orientation when the touchscreen is enabled with an eye to the finder. This is because no matter the size of your nose, it will most likely unintentionally change your AF point. That said, I’m exploring shooting exclusively using my nose as my primary means of selecting an AF area.

Compared to the DMC-G7

Many differences between the G85 and the G7 are not noticeable from simply looking at the two cameras side-by-side. These differences include: the addition of weather-sealing, 5-axis image stabilization, the removal of the AA filter, a new magnesium front plate and the use of a new electromagnetic shutter (the last two both help to mitigate shutter shock).

Below we’ve noted the visible changes:

The top of the G85 (left) looks almost identical to the G7. There are some slight cosmetic differences like in the shape of the faux-pentaprism. The the pop-up flash release switch has also moved.
The eye sensor for the EVF has moved to the top of the eyecup on the G85 (left). The Fn5 button has also moved slightly and the focus mode dial is redesigned.
The G85 (left) gains a dedicated SD memory card door. On the G7 the SD and battery compartment were the same. The HDMI port on the G85 has moved to the other side of the camera.
The G85 (left) still has no headphone port. Its mic port has also moved lower, to a location where its likely to be in the way of the LCD when flipped out. This seems like an oversight.

Joining the awkwardly placed mic port are USB 2.0, remote and micro-HDMI inputs.

New viewfinder optics

The Panasonic GX8, G7 and G85 all use 2.36M-dot OLEDs in their electronic viewfinders, but each has a different magnification and eyepoint. The G85’s EVF has a magnification of 0.74x compared to 0.7x on the G7, and an eyepoint of 20mm compared to 17.5mm on the G7. The longer eyepoint should improve visibility for glasses wearers and the higher magnification improves overall visibility. By comparison, the flagship GX8 offers a magnification of 0.77x and an eyepoint of 21mm.

New shutter mechanism & EFS

The G85 uses the same electromagnetic shutter as the GX85. It also has a new electronic first curtain shutter mode that can be used at speeds as fast as 1/2000 sec. The front of G85 is now magnesium alloy, compared to plastic on the G7. This not only helps to reduce shutter shock, it also helps to dampen the sound of the mechanical shutter, making it less audible to those nearby.

Customization options

The G85 has 5 customizable physical buttons and 5 customization slots on the touch interface. Additionally the button located at the center of the back control dial can be setup to change the function of both dials when pressed.

There are separate Q.Menus for video and still capture, both of which can be customized to taste from within the camera’s main menu.

Auto ISO

Panasonic’s Auto ISO functionality continues to be downright prehistoric by modern camera standards. Users can not specify a minimum shutter speed, range or relationship to focal length at which the camera will increase the ISO setting. Auto ISO also can not be used in Manual mode during video capture. And when using Auto ISO in Manual mode during still capture, Exposure Compensation can not be used. The only option users can control when using Auto ISO is setting an upper threshold.

The G85 also has an Intelligent ISO mode, it also doesn’t allow any user input beyond setting the upper limit, instead trying to detect movement in the scene and increasing the ISO to ensure a suitable shutter speed is used.

Battery life

There is a new power saving EVF mode that automatically shuts the finder off after 3, 5 or 10 secs from when it detects an eye has moved away. CIPA rates the G85 at 320 shots per charge, compared to 350 on the G7. However, with ‘auto off’ set to 3 seconds, Panasonic claims you can get up to 800-900 shots per charge.

The G85 ships with a dedicated charger, it cannot be charged over USB.

Video

The Panasonic G85 offers the following video recording options (The G80 will include 25 and 50p options):

MP4
  • (4K) 3840 x 2160 30/24p @ 100 Mbps
  • (FHD) 1920 x 1080 60p @ 28 Mbps
  • (FHD) 1920 x 1080 30p @ 20 Mbps
  • (HD) 1280 x 720 30p @ 10 Mbps
AVCHD
  • (FHD) 1920 x 1080 60p @ 28 Mbps
  • (FHD) 1920 x 1080 60i (from 60p capture) @ 17 Mbps
  • (FHD) 1920 x 1080 24/30p @ 24 Mbps
Video tools

Like most Panasonics, the G85 has a lot of useful video tools like focus peaking, zebra highlight warnings and microphone level adjustments (with a wind filter option). As mentioned earlier, Auto ISO still can not be used in Manual exposure mode during video capture. And while there is a microphone jack, it’s inconveniently located in relation to the articulating screen. There is also no headphone jack to monitor levels.

For serious videographers interested in color grading in post, the camera has Cinelike Gamma D (a fairly flat profile, though not a Log response). Alternatively there’s the Cinelike V profile that tries to give an end result but with less post-processing flexibility. The G85 also lets you adjust contrast, sharpness, noise reduction, saturation, color tone, hue and filter effect (monochrome only) for those and all of the Photo Styles.

The G85’s touchscreen makes selecting a focus point or racking focus incredibly simple, though being contrast-detection based, there’s some risk of hunting. There’s also ‘4K live cropping’ mode which allows users to pan or zoom in on a selected area of a 4K video. The resulting clip is 1080p. You can see an example of it, from the our ZS100 review below:

Video Quality

https://goo.gl/iQ9aEb

As we expected, 4K video footage from the Panasonic G85 is excellent. The removal of the AA filter gives the camera a slight bump in sharpness over the Panasonic G7. Video quality also looks sharper than that of its cousin the GX85 (which also uses a 16MP sensor and skips the AA filter) and nearly as good as the 20MP GX8. Despite the lack of an AA filter, the G85 does a good job keeping false color to a minimum.

HD footage looks nearly identical to that of the Panasonic G7 and significantly sharper than that out of the Panasonic GX85. In fact 1080/30p video almost as good as that out of the Panasonic GX8 and significantly better than that offered by the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II. And while the APS-C Sony a6300 unsurprisingly has the G85 beat in terms of 4K video quality, the G85 offers far superior HD video quality.

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Real World Samples

Excellent video quality aside, another extremely compelling reason to consider the G85 for movie making is the 5-axis in-body stabilization — it can easily be used hand-held, even when shooting at telephoto focal lengths, without having to worry about shaky footage.

The above video was shot in 4K/24p at the highest quality setting (ISO 200, 1/50 sec F5.6). Using the kit lens racked out to a 120mm equiv., I tapped the screen mid-way through the clip to change the point of focus. Here’s the catch, it was shot hand-held, meaning Dual I.S. is useful enough during video capture that you can shoot single-handed at a 120mm equiv. and still get a usable-stable shot. Pretty impressive.

This clip should give you an idea of real world video quality. It was also shot in 4K/24p at the highest quality setting, with an exposure of ISO 200, 1/50 sec, F5.6 and at a 120mm equiv. focal length, hand-held.

Features

4K Photo mode

Like its other ILC’s, the G85 has quite a few features that make use of its 4K video capture capabilities. 4K Photo mode is one of them, and it works by capturing a short 4K clip (in a choice of aspect ratios) and allowing users to extract ~8MP stills. This mode is cool because it gives photographers the ability to capture very specific moments in time, at the equivalent of an insanely high frame-rate. It’s also very easy to use.

Another cool feature which we also saw on the GX8, is Post Focus. It works by racking focus while capturing 4K video, allowing the users to grab a JPEG from the clip using a cleverly designed interface.

Focus Stacking
Post Focus lets you tap the area that you’d like to focus, the camera then selects the relevant frame. Focus Stacking lets you ‘draw-in’ multiple boxes, which will then be in focus.
Image courtesy of Panasonic.

We’ve seen Post Focus available in existing Panasonic models. The G85 takes the concept further by including a ‘Focus Stacking’ mode. The first image below is a standard photo, with focus set to the foreground, the second is the same image shot using the focusing stacking mode. Both were shot at the same focal length, but take note of the crop factor on the second (since it’s grabbed from the camera’s 4K video). Extraction from 4K footage also means the result is JPEG only.

Normal JPEG

Focus Stacking mode

Bracketing options

The G85 has the same updated bracketing options as the GX85, including aperture and focus bracketing (in addition to exposure and white balance). When bracketing aperture, users can select to bracket 3, 5 or all available apertures.

When bracketing focus, users select the number of focus ‘steps’ between shots, as well as the number of shots, which can range from 2 to 999.

Wi-Fi

The G85 offers the same, very functional Wi-Fi implementation as recent Panasonic ILC’s. Once paired with the Panasonic Image app, users can view and download images, view videos, and control the vast majority of the camera’s core functions for remote shooting.

Autofocus

Like its cousin, the GX85 and big brother, the GX8, the G85 has a 49-point Contrast Detect AF system and Panasonic’s Depth from Defocus technology (or ‘DFD’, which only works when shooting with Panasonic glass).

DFD works in conjunction with lens profiles that understand how out-of-focus objects are rendered in front of, or behind, the focus plane for any particular lens, helping the camera decide whether to drive the focus element forward or backward to achieve focus. DFD is a major reason why the G85 (and its siblings) can all shoot bursts at 6 fps with successful continuous AF.

Subject Tracking

The G85 unsurprisingly performs very similarly to the GX85 and G8 when it comes to maintaining focus on a moving subject, whether using a single point or using subject tracking, while firing a burst at 6 fps in the ‘Medium w/ Live View’ burst mode. The below roll-over was shot at a 280mm equiv. with the camera set to its ‘Tracking’ mode in AF-C.

It’s worth noting that the camera will shoot at 6 fps in both Continuous High and Continuous Medium mode if you engage AF-C. However, you’ll only get a live update between frames in Continuous Med drive mode. We got better results in Medium drive speed and would recommend that mode for action shooting. More on that below.

Face Detect is especially useful when photographing squirming babies. ISO 12,800, 1/320 sec at F2.2.

Face Detect is implemented in exactly the same way as on both the GX85 and G8: a yellow box appears when a face is detected, which then turns green once focus is confirmed. If eyes are detected, a cross-hair will appear over them, within the green box.

In instances with multiple faces, the G85 biases toward the nearest face, you cannot choose between detected faces. Tapping anywhere on the screen, even on another face, simply makes the camera switch to single point AF mode, unless you tap back on the initial face. We’d go so far as to say that face detection is only useful if you don’t wish to choose your subject, leaving the camera to automatically choose instead.

Far more useful is the camera’s ‘tracking’ mode, where you place your subject under the center AF-point and half press to initiate tracking. Alternatively, you can tap the screen over your subject to track. Hitting ‘Menu/Set button resets tracking. You can see examples of this in the video above.

The G85 uses its sensor for subject recognition and once the camera locks on to a subject, it does an impressive job sticking to it. However initial acquisition, the time it takes between half pressing the shutter release and the camera actually recognizing and locking on the subject, is a tad hesitant. There are also times where the G85 will flat out fail to lock on to a subject. You can see that in the video above, indicated by the small red square (toward the end of the clip).

AF Sensitivity

The Panasonic G85 gains an AF sensitivity slider, it can be adjusted in relation to the movement of one’s subject. The default position is ‘0,’ increasing the sensitivity results in the camera adjusting focus more quickly, decreasing the sensitivity results in camera waiting a brief period of time before readjusting focus.

If you don’t expect another subject to enter the frame (and cause the AF system to instead jump to it), keeping the slider set to ‘+2’ ensures the fastest continuous AF speeds. But for scenes with distracting backgrounds, keeping the sensitivity closer to its default can prove useful. In our bike test example above, the sensitivity was left at ‘0’ with excellent results.

When using the AF sensitivity slider during video capture, it controls the speed of continuous AF. In the clip above, face detect was used with the sensitivity set to both ‘0’ and ‘+2.’ The latter proved to be the better sensitivity setting for tracking Carey’s face. But for a smooth racked focus shot, the ability to slow down the focus speed is a nice option to have.

Performance

When using the mechanical shutter, the G85 boasts a top burst speed of 9 fps (40 fps in SH mode using the e-shutter) with focus locked and 6 fps (with a live view) with the camera set to continuous AF. The G85 is UHS-II compatible and the buffer is fairly impressive. When shooting JPEGs at 6 fps, we couldn’t even hit its limits (using a UHS-II card). Shooting Raw at 6 fps, we fired 50 frames before filling the buffer.

The G85 also gains a new top shutter speed of 1/16,000 sec using the e-shutter. 1/4000 sec is the fastest shutter speed using the mechanical shutter and 1/2000 when using the new electronic first curtain shutter mode.

A note about burst modes and AF-C

The fastest burst rate you can shoot with continuous AF on the G85 is 6 fps. However there are four available burst settings when the camera is in the multishot drive mode, they include: Super High, High, Medium and Low.

Super High  High  Medium  Low
Burst AF-S  40 fps electronic only  9 fps mechanical* /
10 fps electronic
6 fps mechanical* / electronic 2 fps mechanical* / electronic
Burst AF-C N/A, defaults to AF-S  6 fps mechanical* / electronic 6 fps mechanical* / electronic 2 fps mechanical* / electronic
 Live view No  No  Yes  Yes

*Or electronic first curtain shutter mode

The top two speeds do not offer a live view of your burst while shooting, instead giving a playback of already-shot images, the lower two speeds do. Super High mode locks focus at the start of the burst (regardless of whether you have the AF mode set to AF-C or AF-S) and fires at 40 fps using the electronic shutter. This is pretty straight forward.

Here’s where things get tricky: High Speed mode is 9 fps using the mechanical shutter and 10 fps using electronic, but only when the focus mode is set to AF-S. When the focus mode is set to AF-C, it drops 6 fps, again without a live feed (Even though Medium speed offers a live feed and 6 fps shooting). We also observed during our testing that hit rates during our bike test were lower in High drive + AF-C vs Medium drive + AF-C (possibly due to the lack of live feed making it hard to follow the moving subject).

Dual I.S. 2

The G85 features ‘Dual IS 2’ and uses a new image stabilization algorithm as well as a new gyro-sensor for increased stability. When using a compatible lens, the system uses the in-body and in-lens stabilization systems in concert, which Panasonic claims is capable of 4-5 stops of stabilization when shooting normal-telephoto focal lengths.

We tested Dual I.S. 2 on the G85 using the 14-140mm F3.5-5.6 Power O.I.S. kit lens at both a 50mm and 200mm equivalent focal length (using our standard IS test). In both cases we averaged roughly 3.5-stops of added hand-hold-ability. That’s only about a half stop behind the class-leader Olympus Pen F, which give us around 4 stops at a 50mm equiv., but a half stop ahead of the Panasonic GX85 (testing using Dual I.S and the 12-32mm 3.5-5.6 kit lens).

Dual I.S. 2 is also useful during video capture. The above clip shows the difference between shooting a handheld clip with Dual I.S. 2 switched off and then on. The G85 also has an electronic stabilization function that works by cropping the frame in slightly to compensate for shake. You can see its effects on stabilization and the crop factor also in the clip above.

At launch, only two lenses will be compatible with Dual IS 2 – both are kit lenses: the 12-60mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH Power O.I.S and 14-140mm F3.5-5.6 ASPH Power O.I.S Additionally, Panasonic says the Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm F4.0-6.3 ASPH Power O.I.S will be Dual IS 2 compatible some time in 2017 via firmware update. Ten other lenses are currently ‘under study,’ to be made compatible with Dual IS 2.

Image Quality

Our latest test scene simulates both daylight and low-light shooting. Pressing the ‘lighting’ buttons at the top of the widget switches between the two. The daylight scene is manually white balanced to give neutral grays, but the camera is left in its Auto setting for the low-light tests. Raw files are manually corrected. We offer three different viewing sizes: ‘Full’, ‘Print’, and ‘Comp’, with the latter two offering ‘normalized’ comparisons by using matched viewing sizes. The ‘Comp’ option chooses the largest-available resolution common to the cameras being compared.

https://goo.gl/wPa7Z0

JPEG Performance

It’s likely the Panasonic G85 uses the same 16MP sensor as the G7, but without an anti aliasing filter. The removal of this filter doesn’t make a huge difference in terms ofdetail capture compared to the G7, but it also doesn’t mean too much additional moiré or false color. Sharpening is a bit more aggressive on the G85, this occasionally results in a stair-stepping pattern along edges as well as slight halos, noticeable along blocks of solid color. The king’s sword is a good example of overaggressive sharpening crunching away details.

The G85 uses an updated JPEG engine and color at base ISO appears slightly punchier than that of the G7; yellows also seem to have less of the nasty greenish tint. As the ISO increases, color remains slightly more accurate and vibrant than that of the G7. JPEGs appears similar to those from Panasonic GX85 (which also uses a 16MP sensor sans AA filter), with no noticeable color improvements as base ISO. The same can be said athigh ISOs.

The camera’s noise reduction also appears very similar to that of the GX85: aggressive at both mid and high ISOs. It does offer advantages over that of its predecessor, the G7 though. For instance at ISO 3200, the G85 holds on to detail in the leaves better than the G7 (though it still smooths over the detail in the sponge). But at both camera’s top ISO, the G85’s leaves have been completely smoothed over, while the G7 still retains some detail. This suggests a context sensitive noise reduction system that’s often not quite clever enough at recognizing the context, resulting in aggressive levels of NR being applied.

Shutter Shock

Shutter vibrations resulting in soft images were a real problem for the Panasonic G7. With the G85, Panasonic used a new electromagnetic shutter mechanism and swapped the previously-plastic front plate for a magnesium one. They also gave the camera an electronic first curtain shutter option. So did all this work to mitigate shutter shock? You bet.

Whether using simply the mechanical shutter or the EFC shutter mode, there is no noticeable softness from vibration (sharpness is indicated by alaising in the star).

Raw Performance

Raw performance from the G85 is largely unchanged compared to that of the G7. The removal of the AA filter does result in slightly improved resolving power. You can expect near identical Raw performance to the GX85.

Because the G7 is best used in E-shutter mode due to shutter shock, the G85 offers some serious advantages in terms of Raw noise levels over its predecessor as high ISOs. This is because there is a noise penalty when using the e-shutter; files are 10-bit as opposed to 12-bit (as is the case when using the mechanical shutter). It’s worth noting that this noise penalty is not an issue when using the new EFC shutter mode on the G85.

Raw files also look similar to those from the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II, which also uses a 16MP Four Thirds chip with no AA filter, with nearly identical high ISO noise levels. However the G85 appears to out resolve the EM-5 II. In fact, detail from the G85 is only a bit behind the APS-C Sony a6300. Of course, it only takes pushing the ISO to see the advantages of the a6300’s larger sensor when it comes to noise levels.

Raw Dynamic Range

Exposure Latitude

In this test we look to see how tolerant of pushing exposure the G85’s Raw files are. We’ve done this by exposing our scene with increasingly lower exposures, then pushed them back to the correct brightness using Adobe Camera Raw. Examining what happens in the shadows allows you to assess the exposure latitude (essentially the dynamic range) of the Raw files.

Because the changes in noise are primarily caused by shot noise and this is mainly determined by the amount of light the camera has had access to, the results are only directly comparable between cameras of the same sensor size. However, in real-world shooting situations you may well be limited by what shutter speed you can use, so this test gives you an idea of the amount of processing latitude different formats give.

https://goo.gl/prCdXd

Based on our test results the G85 offers nearly identical exposure latitude to thePanasonic G7 as well as the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II. This means you can expect similar degree of processing flexibility from Raw files.

ISO Invariance

A camera with high (base ISO) dynamic range has a very low noise floor, which has an interesting implication: the low noise floor reduces the need to amplify the sensor’s signal in order to keep it above this floor. This can afford you benefits in situations conventionally demanding higher ISO settings: you can use a lower ISO and push the Raw files, rather than applying hardware amplification and clipping lots of highlight data.

Here we’ve done something that may seem counter-intuitive: we’ve used the same aperture and shutter speed at different ISO settings to see how much difference there is between shooting at a particular ISO setting (and using hardware amplification) or digitally correcting the brightness, later.

https://goo.gl/tnH3nE

With the G85, there is nearly no difference in noise performance between shooting at ISO 1600 vs. using the same exposure with the ISO knocked down to 200 and pushing the file 3EV in ‘post’, suggesting the camera is adding very little noise. This is assuming you are using the mechanical or electronic first curtain shutter mode as opposed to the E-shutter which knocks the bit rate from 14-bit to 12-bit.

By underexposing 3EV, users can avoid over-amplifying the top 3EV of highlight information and blowing it out. These results are nearly the same as what we observed with the Panasonic G7 and Olympus OM-D E-M5 II.

Conclusion

Pros Cons
  • Excellent still image quality, especially when shooting Raw
  • Excellent 4K video quality
  • Weather-sealed, robust build quality
  • Dual I.S. 2 combines 5-axis in-body and in-lens shake reduction and is useful when shooting stills or video
  • Depth from Defocus AF system results in good depth and subject tracking (when using own-brand lenses)
  • Fully-articulating LCD with excellent touch features and implementation
  • New shutter mechanism eliminates ‘shutter shock’ which plagued the G7
  • Customizable interface, including physical buttons and touchscreen
  • Touchpad AF lets you select a focus point on the rear screen while using the viewfinder
  • Aggressive mid and high ISO JPEG noise reduction can smooth away detail
  • Desaturated colors in JPEG at high ISO
  • Simplistic Auto ISO implementation
  • No headphone port
  • Can not select a portion of the screen for touchpad AF
  • Mic and HDMI ports, when in use, block the screen from being tilted
Overall Conclusion

The G85 is Panasonic’s mid-level all-arounder. It is very much a refinement of thePanasonic G7, which is still an impressively-capable camera, but one that does not reach its full potential due to the issue of shutter shock.

The G85 effectively eliminates shutter shock by switching to a new electromagnetic shutter mechanism and using more magnesium alloy in the body construction as opposed to plastic. It also has a new electronic first curtain shutter mode with no noise penalty, but more on that below. Additionally, the G85 gains weather-sealing and 5-axis image stabilization (which gave us an average of 3.5 stops of added stability). Both of these upgrades make an already tempting camera line, all that much more appealing.

The articulating touchscreen on the G85 is a pleasure to use. And when looking through the EVF, you can use your thumb on the screen as a ‘touch pad’ to move your AF area around. However sometimes one’s nose will bump the screen, changing the AF point. We’d like to see future Panasonic cameras offer an assignable area of the screen to be used as the ‘touch pad,’ to alleviate this issue. ISO 250, 1/800 sec F4.1.

It enters a crowded mirrorless market and has some stiff competition both from other Micro Four Thirds cameras, as well as some APS-C offerings. The Sony a6300 andOlympus E-M5 II in particular stack up nicely against the G85, both in terms of price and capability. The G85 also faces competition from DSLRs like the Nikon D5500 andCanon Rebel T6S/760D. But even among all these heavy hitters, the G85 it has tricks up its sleeve – are they enough to make you open up your wallet?

Body and Handling
Shown with 12-60mm F3.5-5.6 Power O.I.S. kit lens

The camera scores big points in the body and handling category. Simply put, the combination of large dual control dials, physical buttons (many of which can be customized), and a well-implemented touch-interface all add up to outstanding ergonomics.

However from a usability standpoint, the G85 is not perfect. Its Auto ISO implementation does not allow users to set a minimum shutter speed, ISO range or relationship to focal length, things we consider standard in today’s camera market, nor can it be used when shooting video. Another beef: when a cable is plugged into the microphone or HDMI port, it blocks the LCD from being tilted. It is also worth pointing out that while this reviewer had no problems with the size of camera’s smaller buttons, larger-handed shooters may.

Those issues aside, the camera is impressively light, yet solid-feeling in the hand. And did we mention its weather-sealed?

Performance

The camera is quick to start up and overall very responsive in operation. Panasonic continues to impress with its Depth from Defocus AF. The G85 uses the same 49-point contrast detect system found in most recent Panasonic ILC’s and it can comfortably shoot at 6 fps with accurate continuous autofocus. The G85 can also track subjects in all 3 dimensions with impressive ease, thanks to subject recognition using its image sensor. This is useful in both stills and video mode. Casual shooters will likely find the face detect mode quite handy when photographing friends and family (though the ‘Tracking’ mode allows users to actually pick a subject, face detect does not).

With focus locked, the G85 can shoot 9 fps using its mechanical shutter and whopping 40 fps using the e-shutter in Super High burst mode. Those modes are likely not all that helpful for shooting moving subjects, but 6 fps with reliable continuous AF is. Of course there are better-performing cameras on the market if you’re serious about sports photography.

Image Quality
Out-of-camera JPEG
(ISO 3200, 1/80 sec, f/2.8)

JPEG noise reduction is very aggressive at high ISO’s, smearing away detail.

Raw files converted in ACR

By processing the Raw file you can hang on to a lot of that detail.

Panasonic is still breathing new life into their 16MP Four Thirds chip by removing the anti aliasing filter and the G85 sees slight improvements in image quality over its predecessor as a result of this and changes to its JPEG engine.

The G85 is able to capture slightly more detail than the G7 in both Raw and JPEG all while doing a reasonable job of keeping moiré and false color in check. JPEG color has been slightly improved, but in general, JPEGs still tend to look washed-out at higher ISOs and noise reduction across the board is very aggressive and often sloppy. Simply put, to get the most of the G85, shoot in Raw mode.

The G85 gains an electronic first curtain shutter mode, which is somewhat ironic because its new shutter mechanism seems to solve any concerns about shutter shock. Using the EFC shutter mode results in 14-bit files, just as when using the mechanical shutter, but the fully electronic results in 12-bit files. This ability to shoot without shutter shock without resorting to E-shutter mode gives the G85 a serious advantage over its predecessor in terms of dynamic range and Raw noise levels at high ISOs.

At low ISOs JPEGs look just fine. This one was set to the ‘Vibrant’ color profile. ISO 200, 1/400 sec at F7.1.
Video

Shooting high quality video with this camera is a pleasure. 5-axis in-body image stabilization makes shooting hand-held extremely easy. Plus, the G85 has second generation sensor + lens image stabilization (Dual I.S. 2) for even more stability when using a compatible lens. Using the touchscreen to select a subject is painless and depth from defocus AF means the subject will usually remain in focus when using AF-C.

Video can be captured at 4K/24,30p at up to 100Mbps. The quality is very good in 4K and also impressive in 1080 (it beats the pants off the EM-5 II). It also has a useful ‘live cropping’ mode, which takes 4K shoots and crops in to 1080 to simulate panning or zooming in. For slow motion shots, users can shoot at 1080/60p but there is no 120p option.

Video tools like focus peaking, zebra pattern, audio levels and wind filter have long been standard on Pansonic cameras. However, Auto ISO can not be used in manual mode during video capture which can be very frustrating. The camera has a microphone input, but no headphone port.

The Final Word
Everyone loves flowers. The G85 is almost as lovable as a flower. ISO 1000 1/80 sec F4.2.

In terms of performance, ergonomics and capability, the Panasonic G85 is the camera I will be recommending to enthusiasts for the foreseeable future. Here is why: It is the most compelling and complete Panasonic camera on the market (until the GH5). I said this when I first reviewed the rangefinder-style GX85 (a very similar camera), but the G85 takes everything a step forward.

Moreover, the G85 also offers the most complete and compelling package of its competitors. It’s siblings aside, the G85 is one of the only cameras at this price point capable of 4K video capture. Yes the a6300 shoots 4K and has a more sophisticated AF system, but it has no in-body IS, frustrating ergonomics (lacks dual top-plate control dials) and a limited lens family. On the other hand the E-M5 II has in-body IS, dual control dials and lens choices aplenty, but no 4K. With the G85, you can pretty much have it all.

There is only one real area it struggles: JPEG image quality. This is not to say JPEGs from the camera are entirely unappealing. But when you have similarly-priced cameras like the Fujifilm X-T10 capable of gorgeous JPEG color, it makes Panasonic JPEGs look comparatively ‘meh’. Still, I feel strongly that the Panasonic G85 represents a near full realization of what modern Panasonic ILC’s are capable of (if only it had that new 20MP chip…). It is a highly enjoyable camera to shoot with and one I would gladly reach for without any hesitation. For these reasons, it wins a gold award.

Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category. Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.

Conclusion

The G85 is an extremely appealing camera for enthusiast photographers. Light-weight and weather-sealed, it offers dual control dials, a fully articulating touchscreen and ample customization. Still image quality is excellent, the same goes for 4K and HD video quality. Autofocus is reliable, even when it comes to subject tracking and 5-axis in body stabilization allows for easy hand-held shooting. Simply put, this camera should fulfill the needs of many with ease.

Good for

Street, travel and general-use photography. Casual sports shooting. 4K video shooting. Easy social sharing.

Not so good for

Serious video work: no Log response or a headphone jack to monitor levels.

Panasonic has a lot of cameras with similar sounding names. While this stack of cameras is not literally meant to represent how these cameras stack up against one another, it should give some sense of Panasonic’s ILC offerings. The G85 (bottom right) borrows something from each of its siblings. It has the weather-sealing of the GX8 (bottom left), in-body image stabilization, a sensor sans-AA filter and a redesigned shutter mechanism from the GX85 (top) and a revised version of the G7 (center)’s body.

Sample gallery

Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don’t abuse it.

Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution. Because our review images are now hosted on the ‘galleries’ section of dpreview.com, you can enjoy all of the new galleries functionality when browsing these samples.

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(dpreview.com, https://goo.gl/D5phWq)

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