The Lumix G7 is Panasonic’s fifth model to feature 4K video capture, but is it solely the preserve of video shooters, or does it bring something special to still photographers too? Michael Topham finds out
The G7’s new 4K photo function couldn’t be easier to set up – simply rotate the drive dial to its 4K setting and specify which 4K burst setting you’d like to use from the main menu or via the Fn10 touchscreen icon.
To test its effectiveness I put it into practice at a game of cricket and began by using the 4K-burst setting that required me to hold the shutter button all the while the action occurred. A red flashing dot indicating the camera was recording and a timer revealing the length of the burst were both displayed on screen. After recording the sequence of the bowler delivering the ball and the batsman playing a shot the shutter was released. The camera processed the eight-second long burst in less than five seconds and revealed a thumbnail onscreen.
Holding and scrolling this thumbnail to the right allowed me to then scrub through the 4K movie clip frame-by-frame to select my favourite image from the burst sequence, before extracting an 8-million-pixel image and saving it to the card simply by using the Menu/Set button. Though 4K photo might seem complex, it’s actually very intuitive to use and can make the difference between capturing a shot at the precise moment and missing it altogether.
Something I did encounter whilst testing the G7’s 4K Burst Shooting mode was a phenomenon whereby low-resolution previews are displayed in the viewfinder. It’s not uncommon for low-resolution previews to take a fraction of a second to render as high-resolution previews, but this doesn’t happen, which in turn makes it difficult to know whether your subject is pin-sharp in focus or not.
I latterly discovered that by pulling my eye away from the viewfinder only to look back through the EVF again revealed a high-resolution preview, but low-resolution images reappeared when navigating through other images in a burst using the four-way controller. Although not a disastrous phenomenon, I’d prefer to see a high-resolution preview instantly in the viewfinder much like you do on the rear screen.
As for the other two 4K burst modes, 4K Burst (Start/Stop) worked well when it was a nuisance holding the shutter for a prolonged periods and the clever 4K pre-burst mode is useful for capturing spur of the moment action before there’s time to fire the shutter. Users will want to use 4K pre-burst sparingly though as it has a tendency to drain the battery very quickly all the time when the camera is continuously recording.
The continuous autofocus speed, both in 4K Photo and video-recording modes is excellent. Focus occurs slower than in stills mode to create smooth transitions and to avoid the distraction that fast focus actions can bring. Just like the Lumix GH4 that also employs Panasonic’s proprietary Depth from Defocus technology, the G7’s focus acquisition when shooting stills is brisk, and should you be caught out by a low-light scene, the G7’s bright orange AF assist lamp provides additional illumination to nearby subjects.
The 49 AF points cover a large portion of the screen and it’s a much more sophisticated array than the 23 point system as previously found on the Lumix G6. The size of single-area AF can be adjusted quickly using the rear command dial, or if you’d prefer to refine it more precisely the front command dial can also be used.
For those who’d prefer to control the size and positioning of the AF point using the touchscreen, simply use the same pinch and zoom gestures you’d usually use to zoom in and out of an image. Up to four custom AF grids can be created and stored in the custom AF menu too. Setting these is a very straightforward, simply run your finger across the screen or tap one of the 49 areas before hitting the Fn2 button to save for future use.
The G7’s Wi-Fi functionality also works effectively in connection with Panasonic’s Image App that’s compatible with both iOS and Android devices. A bright blue LED on the top plate of the camera reveals Wi-Fi is active and from the app you can take remote operation of the camera and control AF point adjustment, AF mode as well as other key exposure settings. Switching over to the app’s transfer image mode allows you to transfer individual images or a batch to a mobile device. There’s also the option to instantly share to Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Picasa or Flickr.