Concept: 4 out of 5
Execution: 1 out of 5
Yeah, but: Buyer Beware
The Long Version:
The Purchase From Amazon
Reader beware. I'm coming at this review with a very big chip on my shoulder. Here's why.
I purchased a Panasonic GX7 black body from Amazon because it was marked down over a 1/3 from its original MSRP. Now when I purchase a camera body, I expect a camera body properly marked and boxed. That's not what I got. The seller, Web Offers, sold me a broken up body plus lens kit, where the lens had been removed (I assume to sell independently when the 20mm was selling for $100 and more over its initial MSRP). It was not advertised as such on Amazon.
When the box was opened and the body unwrapped, the body/sensor cavity was open, the body cover in another part of the box. Even the box listed the 20mm as part of the overall kit. Web Offers had to have known what it was doing, or what it had. The original SKU label was papered over with another sticker that said "Body only..."
I never expected to get such from a trusted vendor like Amazon. This is the kind of shady behaviour I expect from eBay. My trust in Amazon has taken a bit of a hit over this, especially over sale items Amazon fullfills but are sold by another seller. Mere fulfillment by Amazon isn't enough of a guarantee of quality it would seem.
I ran my tests primarily with the Olympus 1.8/17mm lens, but over the short time I had the GX7 I also tested with the 1.8/45mm, the 12-50mm kit zoom and the Panasonic Leica 1.4/25mm. The GX7 handled all of them smoothly and without any issues. From a practical standpoint, focusing with the GX7 in normal Florida light was as fast as the E-M5, or close enough as to be irrelevant as to which was faster.
The GX7 has a 16MP 4:3rds sensor matched with a contemporary Panasonic Venus Engine. For all intents and purposes, the output of the GX7 is indistinguishable from the E-M5 when used as a standard digital camera, that is, using either the EVF or the rear screen to compose and tripping the shutter with the shutter button. There is, however, more to today's cameras than just image quality.
I have read the phrase "falls easily to hand" so many times that I'm sick of reading it. The GX7 does not "fall easily" to my hand. I own a number of µ4:3rds bodies; the Olympus E-P2, the E-PL1, the Panasonic GX1 and the Olympus E-M5. I even have a Sony NEX 5N. I know how these small cameras should handle. All of them, in various degrees, have been easy enough to hold, especially over prolonged periods of time. The best handling camera I own by far is the E-M5, and that's whether I have the HLD-6 horizontal grip bolted on or not (I don't usually shoot with the vertical grip).
When I'm out using a camera I walk around carrying my camera in my right hand so that it's quick to bring up and use. Using the GX7 in this manner is awkward and becomes fatiguing over time compared to my other cameras. I attribute this in part to the GX7's oddly asymmetrical design, the most asymmetrical I've held to date (with the notable exception of the NEX 5N, perhaps).
Unlike all other µ4:3rds camera bodies I own, the lens mount is shoved to the right edge of the body (forward view); the lens release abuts the edge. Even the GX1 lens mount isn't pushed that far. Add in the large soft lump on the left that passes for the grip and it makes for an awkward combination with any lens, the larger the more awkward. The best handling combination was with the 17mm, followed closely by the 45mm. The worst was a tie between the 25mm and the 12-50mm zoom.
The differences between the GX7 and the E-M5 is not just the front grip but also the back thumb grip; to whit, the E-M5 (and E-M1 and E-M10) have a substantial thumb grip, while the GX7 does not. I believe It's that back thumb grip that allows me to hold the E-M5 with a more relaxed grip. With the GX7 I unconsciously believe I'm constantly ready to drop it because I don't have the same assuring tactile feedback.
The buttons turned out to be very sensitive to touch, so much that the would register a double hit, causing me to skip say a menu entry. It got tiresome having to go back very carefully one step. The worse button by far turned out to be the video button. It is flat against the top deck, right up next to the dial surrounding the shutter release. It was very uncomfortable to reach over and release, a far cry from the far easier button on the E-M5
The EVF does indeed suffer from rainbow shearing. It's particularly egregious around the white text at the bottom of the EVF. It was so bad that in the end I found myself using the rear LCD almost exclusively. I found the EVF tilting feature a bit of a waste of effort. I've got an Olympus EVF that fits my older Pens, and I've never been all that enamored with its tilting capability either.
What finally drove me batty was trying to work with the touch LCD on the back of the GX7. My E-M5 has a reasonable oleophobic surface on the screen, which tends to keep my oily fingerprints off and helps to me see what the screen. The GX7 screen was constantly picking up finger oil, which was constantly forcing me to wipe it with a micro fiber cloth.
The GX7 touch screen was almost too sensitive at times. I would inadvertently touch a part of the screen, triggering an exposure, and relocating the focus point. In the end I disabled the touch screen and just used the buttons (those wonderfully over sensitive buttons) to move the focus point if I needed it moved.
The E-M5 touch screen, by comparison, is a joy to use. If there's one feature Olympus nailed with the E-M5 it's how the touch-to-trigger-exposure works. It works flawlessly on the E-M5, and as I've recently discovered, on the E-M10 as well.
If I had to make a choice between the GX1 and the GX7, I'd choose the GX1. Likewise, I'd choose the E-M5 in a cold minute over the GX7. The GX7 isn't worth the money, even if it's on sale. There are better µ4:3rds bodies to be had, even from Panasonic. Consider, for example, the Panasonic G6 for the same amount of money.
The GX7 has been packed up and sent back to Amazon. In it's place I purchased an Olympus E-M10 body, which turned out to be less than the GX7. It's probably what I should have done to start with, but I wanted to give the rangefinder design with the built-in EVF a whirl, thinking this would be a good fit in my camera bag. It was not
I've sworn off the faux rangefinder designs of every camera maker, including Olympus' Pen series. Funny thing is, with the Olympus EVF plugged into the Pen, the EVF sits over the lens, just like an SLR design such as the OM-D. I've learned my lesson. I'm sticking with the mirrorless SLR designs from here on out regardless of brand, and unless they go truly bonkers, I'm sticking with Olympus.
last updated 7 oct 2014