Panasonic beefs up its new GX8 with stronger stabilization, better sensor, and 4K

Successor to 2013’s Lumix GX7, Panasonic’s new Lumix GX8 has a compact, redesigned splash- and dust-proof body and the company’s new 4K Photo mode. But it’s more than just a slight upgrade: the Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera uses a brand-new 20.3-megapixel Live MOS sensor (first ever) and a Dual Image Stabilizer that lets you use the image stabilization system in both the lens (if available) and the body, at the same time (previously, in the GX7, you could only use one of the other). The GX8 will go on sale in August and retail for $1,200 (body only, in black or black-and-silver).

Whereas the new Lumix G7 targets step-up users, Panasonic says the GX8 is more for enthusiasts, particularly those who enjoy street photography. The new sensor excels in response, sensitivity, and dynamic range, the company says. The quad-core Venus Engine image processor achieves fast signal processing, and can reach a max ISO of 25,600, with noise reduction systems to help deliver clearer pictures. The camera has a high-speed burst mode of 8 frames per second (fps) or 6 fps with continuous autofocus turned on.

“The combination of the Digital Live MOS Sensor and the Venus Engine achieves clear image rendering with minimum noise.”

Autofocusing has also improved: The 49-point contrast AF system is faster than the GX7’s, and there are several new AF modes, like Low Light/Starlight AF. The GX8 has a mechanical shutter speed of 1/8,000th of a second, but can go up to 1/16,000th of a second with the electronic shutter (although, from using the G7, we noticed issues of rolling shutter; we aren’t sure if the GX8 will also exhibit the same issue).

“The Lumix GX8 features 1/3 stop wider dynamic range than the Lumix GX7 which suppresses washout even in high contrast situations,” Panasonic says. “The combination of the Digital Live MOS Sensor and the Venus Engine achieves clear image rendering with minimum noise even in low-lit situations and stunning picture quality in a natural way.” From sample images, we found color reproduction to be very accurate and pleasant to look at, and image quality to be spot-on.

The GX8 is the first Lumix G camera to feature Dual Image Stabilization (IS) Instead of using either the 2-axis system in the lens or the 2-axis system in the body, Dual IS combines both to deliver 4-axis stabilization. Both body and lens image stabilizers “work at the same time to take advantage of both stabilizers not only in wide angle shooting but also in telephoto,” Panasonic says. “With max.3.5x (wide) / 1.5x (tele) wider correction angle, you can get clear handheld images even in low-lit situations where the shutter speed tends to be slower.”

With video recording, users can employ 5-axis Hybrid OIS, a feature found in Panasonic’s pro cameras; it uses mechanical and digital image stabilization. (The Dual IS feature will support almost all Lumix G lenses with image stabilization, except some very old lenses.)

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Les Shu/Digital Trends

In addition to 4K video recording (3,840 x 2,160 at 30p or 24p), the GX8 has Panasonic’s new 4K Photo mode (introduced in the G7). Essentially, it grabs 8-megapixel stills out of a 4K video. For action scenes where you can’t anticipate the moment, the feature lets you record the entire event and go back later to pull out images you want. (Read more about the feature in our G7 hands-on.) As for 4K recording time, there’s no limit, and you can use full-time autofocusing while recording.

Like the GX7, the GX8 has a tilting OLED electronic viewfinder (rated 2,360K dots) and a free-angle, 3-inch rear OLED display (rated 1,040K dots). The EVF has the highest magnification ratio (1.54x) or any Lumix G-series camera, and a fast response time. In our quick hands-on during a press briefing, the EVF was very responsive and exhibited no lag – something we’ve come to expect with the latest Panasonic cameras.

The magnesium alloy construction gives the camera a solid feel, as well as ruggedness. It also has an improved grip with the shutter button moved to the front. This repositioning allowed Panasonic to add a new jog dial. There’s also a new exposure compensation dial (up to +/-5) below the mode dial. The GX8’s design resembles those of classic Japanese cameras. But Panasonic had to remove the built-in, pop-up flash; a new hot shoe lets you use external flashes.

Other new features include RAW Data Development to process/edit RAW images in-camera; 22 creative filters that can be applied in any PASM mode (before, you had to go into a dedicated mode); and shoot ultra-wide Creative Panorama. The camera also has USB tethering, allowing you to control it from a PC. There’s no built-in flash, so you’ll have to pick up an external option.

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