Getting Ahead of the Curve

The majority of my camera purchases have been somewhat “behind the curve”, to the extent that I’ve purchased some just before the announcement of their replacement. However for my latest purchase I’ve gone right to the other end of the spectrum.

I placed my order for the Panasonic GX7 the day it was announced, and have been waiting only moderately patiently for it to turn up, which finally happened on Friday. Why? I think mainly because I have been suffering “new gadget withdrawal”, especially after the disappointment of my Olympus TG2 in April, and the lack of anything appealing from Canon.

It will now be interesting to see how long I have to wait for effective software support. Neither Capture One nor Adobe Camera Raw support it yet. The camera comes with a copy of the ghastly SilkyPix, but personally I’d rather have my teeth drilled. Fortunately Adobe have released some support via their DNG converter, and the in camera JPEGs are pretty good, so if I do get any really wonderful shots in the next month or so I’m not completely stuck.

First impressions? It’s very small, a definite size down from the GH2. I hold my larger cameras gripped firmly by the right hand with the left for additional support and zooming. The GH2 is a bit small for this, but it just about works. However the GX7 is too small altogether, and in addition the lug for the strap pokes out in just the wrong place to dig into the soft part of my hand. I hold the diminutive Canon S95 pinched between thumb and forefinger of my right hand for shooting, with the middle finger of the right hand providing bracing and operating the zoom. The GX7 is a bit big for this, but it may be the right approach, especially when I can work two handed. I’ll have to experiment.

Otherwise all the controls fall to hand and work quite intuitively – the provision of a front control wheel allowing the rear one to be dedicated to exposure adjustment suits my shooting style well and is a dramatic improvement over the GH2.

Based on early reviews I expected the viewfinder to be both larger and clearer than the GH2. I can’t see any real size difference, and it’s still a notch down from a large DSLR like the Canon 7D, but it is almost as clear as a good OVF. Another definite improvement.

Dislikes? Another bloody proprietary USB connector, and it’s different to the GH2. This just gets worse, and any designer who thinks it might be vaguely acceptable should be taken out and shot. This one is so unique that I can’t currently source a spare cable anywhere obvious! However, as it is compatible with the also-new LF1, I hope that it does at least represent the new standard for Panasonic…

Auto ISO is a bit surprising, defaulting rapidly to ISO 6400. It remains to be seen whether this can be justified by the quality of the raw files at that level – the JPEGs are OK, but maybe not as good as I hoped. — CORRECTION — I’ve just had a look at some of the in-camera JPEGs on the PC, and at ISO 3200 they are superb, at ISO 6400 they are really perfectly usable for anything short of fine art, and I would not be ashamed of the ISO 25600 results for an important “memory shot”. It remains to be seen what can be done with the RAW files, but so far, so good.

It looks like the GX7 shares one of the GH2’s failings – the apparent quality when reviewing images in camera is very misleading, and usually pessimistic, something my Canon’s don’t suffer from.

Overall a promising start. I’ll keep you posted.

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