Panasonic GX85 ‘7-axis’ stabilization makes photos and 4K videos rock steady

Panasonic’s Lumix GX85 is the company’s newest compact mirrorless (Micro Four Thirds) camera, geared toward budget-minded amateur and enthusiast photographers. The interchangeable lens camera uses a new 16-megapixel sensor without a low-pass filter and new Venus image processor, and a new 5-axis Dual Image Stabilizer. The GX85, in black or silver, will be available at the end of May, for $800, and will come with a 12-32mm lens.

In addition, the GX85 introduces a new electromagnetic drive in the shutter mechanism (versus spring-based). Made from carbon fiber, Panasonic says it reduces vibrations by 10 percent, to help deliver crisper pictures. There’s also a silent mode for quiet operation, where an electronic shutter is used.

When used with a compatible lens with a 2-axis Optical Image Stabilizer, combined with the camera’s in-body 5-axis stabilizer, the GX85 delivers greater stabilization, especially when using telephoto lenses. Essentially, any movement you can do to the camera, in any direction, the IS can compensate. It works with both stills and videos, and is useful for low-light scenarios, thanks to the four-stop slower shutter speed. The GX8 introduced Dual I.S., however, that camera only has an in-body 4-axis stabilizer.

Without the low-pass filter, the sensor is able to take photos with higher contrast and better color reproduction. The filter is used for controlling moire; in the GX85 that duty falls to the new Venus engine. The higher quality will be noticeable in black-and-white images; a monochrome option has been added to the Photo Style shooting modes. As for sensitivity the camera maxes out at ISO 25,600, but Panasonic says the electromagnetic shutter reduces shock by 90 percent. Add in the image stabilization, and you could see Panasonic is working hard to reduce vibration.

Like the GX8, the GX85 has a 49-point contrast-autofocus system with a 0.07-second speed at 8 frames per second (6 fps continuous). With the Depth From Defocus technology, it allows for Panasonic’s new Post Focus feature, where the camera can shoot an image at each focus point, giving you the ability to “refocus” afterward. It also provides “realistic motion” in 4K video, Panasonic says.

Among the camera makers, Panasonic is pushing 4K video heavily. Like the G7 and GX8, the GX85 has Panasonic’s 4K Photo burst-mode feature, which lets you extract an 8-megapixel still frame from a 4K video; the 4K Photo mode also has a new Light Composition function that “synthesizes the images by choosing and saving a brighter pixel.” With a 3,840 x 2,160 resolution, 4K also allows for Live Cropping feature that lets you smooth zoom and pan into a video, without physically moving the camera or lens.

During a briefing, Panasonic reveals some statistics behind the release of the GX85. While overall camera sales are down, the growth, Panasonic says, is in interchangeable lens cameras, specifically mirrorless models in the $600-$1,000 range. Whereas the G7 is geared toward users who want a larger, DSLR-like body, and the GX8 is a high-end model for street photography, the GX85 satisfies the “budget” criteria (although it’s far from low-end). The GX85 is like a baby GX8, but with a lower-resolution sensor and weather-resistant body. Yet, it has a lot of features that seemingly trumps the pricier GX8.

Other notable features include:

  • A 16:9 electronic viewfinder with a 2,764k-dot resolution
  • Tilting 3-inch touch LCD with 1,040k-dot resolution
  • New Focus Bracket and Aperture Bracket options. Focus Bracket shoots up to 999 photos with different focus points, while Aperture Bracket allows for multiple shots with different depth-of-fields
  • Ability to shoot simultaneous images, one with creative filter and one without
  • Wi-Fi pairing for sharing and remote operation
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