The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 may be the first Micro Four Thirds camera to sport a 20.3-million-pixel sensor, but it has a whole host of other updates too. Andy Westlake takes it for a spin
Panasonic Lumix DMX-GX8 review: Build and handling
With its rangefinder-like design, the GX8 bucks the current fashion for DSLR-shaped CSCs, and it handles a bit differently too. The side-mounted viewfinder feels a little odd at first, especially when shooting with telephoto lenses, but I soon got used to it. However, the control layout is excellent, and the huge level of customisation on offer means that most users should be able to set the camera up to their liking.
The camera is dustproof and splashproof when paired with a suitable lens, such as Panasonic’s premium 12-35mm f/2.8 and 35-100mm f/2.8 zooms. It feels decently built, but somehow lacks the impression of solidity and refinement exuded by some of its competitors, such as the Fujifilm X-T1, and is not helped by the small, plastic rear buttons. However, there’s no reason to believe that it will be any less rugged in extended use.
The prominent handgrip helps the camera feel secure in your grasp, aided by a slight indentation for your thumb. One advantage of the large body is that there’s plenty of space for physical controls, including no fewer than four dials on the top-plate. The hotshoe accepts Four Thirds-dedicated flashguns, and includes a power pin for small external units that don’t take batteries. Two tiny holes in front of it conceal the built-in stereo mics.
Two electronic dials are used for changing other settings, such as shutter speed and aperture – a small one around the shutter button and larger one positioned for operation by your right thumb. A button in the middle of the larger one can be used to temporarily alter their function to changing ISO and white balance, in a fashion somewhat reminiscent of Olympus’s OM-D models. An exposure-compensation dial sits beneath the exposure mode dial and provides ±3EV correction in 0.3EV steps. Sadly, though, it’s not active when shooting with auto ISO in manual-exposure mode, which is a strange oversight.
On the back is a small switch for selecting between single (AFS) and continuous (AFC) autofocus modes and manual focus, which is a nice touch that is not often seen on CSCs. It can also be configured to access Panasonic’s AFF mode, which switches automatically from AFC to AFS if subject movement is detected.An array of small buttons on the back are used to access other key settings, such as drive mode, and Panasonic’s customisable Q menu gives on-screen access to other commonly used settings without having to resort to the main menu. The whole on-screen interface can be operated by touch, with the responsive capacitive touchscreen and carefully designed interface combining to make this a quick and painless experience.
As with other Panasonic CSCs, the touchscreen can also be used to quickly set the focus point, not only when using it for composition but also with the camera to your eye. This is a nice touch, but as a left-eyed shooter I found it rather too easy to move the AF point inadvertently with my nose. The simplest solution to this was to tilt the EVF slightly, and it’s also possible to turn off the function completely in the Touch Settings submenu and use the D-pad to move the AF area. Right-eyed users – the majority of photographers – should have no trouble at all.
Most of the controls can be reconfigured to suit your preferences, and indeed there are no fewer than 13 customisable function buttons. Of these, five are on-screen touch buttons, and eight are physical buttons on the body. Three of these are labelled Fn but are not numbered, three are labelled only with their default function, and two aren’t marked at all. This can be a problem when the camera shows an on-screen prompt to press, for example, Fn2 to change a setting, as it’s difficult to work out which one it means. Indeed, it’s not always easy to remember what all the buttons do at the best of times.